Books on Bikes blocks summer slide

The Summer Slide—the slide back in achievement when kids take the summer off from reading—has plenty of research to back it up.  What can adults do to overcome the slide?

In Charlottesville, VA, several librarians and teachers bring books to children.  Using specially outfitted bicycles, the librarians and teachers peddle around neighborhoods, ringing bells on their bikes and calling out to children for free books and popsicles.  When the children run out, the adults offer children time to browse through the offerings and sometimes read to the children before moving on to another street.

Begun in 2011, Books on Bikes is reaching hundreds of students every summer.  The program started out small, with librarians pulling a little red wagon full of books.  But through fundraising and volunteer help, Books on Bikes now includes six cargo bikes (worth about $1300 each), specially constructed book cases that fit over the back wheels, and a dedicated team of peddling librarians and teachers.

The program has a two-fold mission:  to get books into the hands of children and to create friendly relationships between the libraries, schools and the Charlottesville community.  Books on Bikes raises funds through grants, business contributions and jars on the countertops of local businesses.

Books on Bikes posts its itinerary online so parents know when to expect the team of book-carrying bikers to arrive in their neighborhood.  Biking hours are from 5:30 to 7 so that children in summer camps during the day are home when the librarians and teachers bike nearby.

The team includes four librarians (Mary Craig and Rebecca Flowers—the founders of the program—and Sarah Fitzhenry and Katie Plunkett) and two teachers (Kellie Keyser and Stacy Diaz).  Now it also includes three therapy dogs.

For more information on the Charlottesville program, or to find out how to start your own Books on Bikes program, go to http://www.booksonbikescville.org/.

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